Saying No

How ironic is it that toddlers frustrate their parents so much with their obscenely frequent use of the word no? Meanwhile, the answer adults wish we’d give more often is no. The same two letter word our toddlers have mastered, we can’t muster up the courage to use. Saying no is a skill to develop that takes courage, honesty, and maturity about one’s authenticity, availability, and passion.   

Why is it so difficult for people to say no? If you are one of them, you are among great company. Lots of folks struggle with no. I get it, people don’t want to disappoint, hurt feelings, feel the finality, or sincerely don’t know how to say no. Others don’t say no because they like to be in charge, in-the-know, feel busy, wanted, or needed. Maybe many don’t say no because of the still, quiet space it may bring for a season or the grief & sadness that can go hand-in-hand with a no. Whatever the reason, lots of people in our culture have an extremely difficult time saying no.  

The problem occurs when our yes begins to look like a no. When we don’t have the ability or courage to say no, but lack the passion, skill, availability, or desire to continue on, it will become noticeable. For many, saying yes in these situations means avoiding the awkwardness that can come with a no response. (After all, the no can be sent later in an email, when they are no longer face-to-face with someone.)

I remember an older minister telling me…

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Neighbors We Ignore

If you’ve gone to church even a few times, chances are you’ve heard the story of The Good Samaritan. It’s a “classic” among the parables of Jesus. One that preachers love to tell because the imagery is so simple, yet the message is so moving. This story stirs something deep inside us. It flips the script of what we assume to be true, which is that religious people are people of character who always do the right thing. Because in this particular story, the person who ends up helping the wounded man, essentially, is not the minister or the deacon or the Sunday school coordinator. It’s the bi-racial 20-something yr. old, Catholic converted Muslim woman, fully tattooed and wearing a hijab that stops to care for the man beat up on a city street. But we’ll come back to this story... 

There’s actually two stories happening in these 12 verses of Luke 10. The story of The Good Samaritan is encapsulated by a larger story in which Jesus is having a conversation with a Hebrew scholar. This was an expert of law and there was no distinction in this society between civil and religious law. This lawyer had every intention of trying to back Jesus into a corner. The Greek word used translated “test;” he was testing Jesus. 

He asks Jesus, “What must I do to have eternal life?” And this is where Jesus sounds like every mother that out-wits her children on a daily basis by answering a question with a question. 

My mom had this technique down. There was this one time I remember

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Insta-Church vs. Authentic Church

We’ve all seen and experienced the Instagram Influencer on social media. Even if someone hasn’t been crowned an actual “Influencer”, we all have those friends who post every bit of their seemingly perfect lives online for all to see. They tag themselves in exotic places, eating in fancy restaurants, with lots of beautiful friends, and pose beside well behaved, smiling children. People have quickly caught on to the problem with this carefully curated persona some individuals are creating on social media…this isn’t real life.

Do these “picture perfect” people ever have a bad day? A zit? Cellulite? Trouble breastfeeding? Do they ever have a lazy day, with no workout, or skinny tea? Do bad things ever happen to them? Do they cry? Grieve? Have anxiety attacks? Do they have fat rolls anywhere? Or have to see a doctor for their acne, migraines, mental health issues, or itching you-know-where? Do their kids ever scream, cry, or wipe poop all over the nursery wall? Does their breath smell bad? Are their homes really this clean all the time? Who are these robots?

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Following a Lost Leader

I have been enthralled with the story of a missing young woman in the Pacific Northwest since mid-August 2018; so much so, I wrote an article about her for Nancy Grace’s website, Crime Online (If you’re interested, you can find the link to my article on the publications page.). The experienced hiker left for a solo day hike on August 1st on a difficult but manageable trail. Many hikers recounted seeing her, speaking with her, and one had a video from his hike in which she could be seen in the background in no duress. Large search parties with trained searchers and dogs, helicopters with infrared imaging, and drones with cameras were used in one of the largest and longest searches in the history of the area, but the search was unsuccessful. She is still missing today, somewhere in the vast wilderness around Vesper Peak, nearly a year later.

While some can read a news story and stay emotionally detached, I cannot so easily turn away from stories like this one. I have dedicated over 36 hours to examining video drone footage and scouring pictures taken from all angles of the mountainside, looking for even the smallest clues to help rescuers find this young woman. My husband questioned me a lot in the beginning, “Why are you searching so much?” And I began to question myself too... Why am I so captivated with this story?

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Grandma’s Notes on Hair & Sexuality

I found a small legal pad with some notes from my late grandmother. They were in one of the many boxes I’m just unpacking because it takes two hours to unpack a box when you’re crying into it as you go.

I admit, I was hoping for words of wisdom but what I found was four pages about a “woman’s seasons” and how a woman’s hair is part of her sexuality. (Interesting in and of itself.) It’s like she attended a horrible “hair seminar.” She was definitely not a hairstylist, so I’m not sure if this was something she saw on tv, heard at a ladies circle meeting, or maybe it was some kind of multi-level marketing scheme. [Update: My mom just called and said it had to do with a book called “Color Me Beautiful” that was popular at the time.]

The last paragraph of her notes read, “Hair is a tool in which a woman can express her sexuality and how she feels about herself. Women who neglect their hair or wear an unflattering style are telling the world they are afraid to be beautiful.”

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Another Man's Trash is a Woman's Emotional Garbage

I spent several days last week wading through the deep waters of another woman’s sexual harassment and stalking experience. There were pages upon pages of typed notes, collections of years of trauma and psychological torment. They were raw and vulnerable-- her tattered story stripped down to only the worst parts. I read every word… over and over and over again.

I never would have imagined a decade ago this woman and I would be such close friends. It was an accidental friendship that began with

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Advocate For Something or Stand For Nothing


Many Christians and politicians are constantly referencing the Bible, what Jesus says, and what God commands Christians to do. Some politicians let their conservative faith influence their politics, smearing the lines between the separation of church and state in dangerous and destructive ways. Holding citizens (of differing religious views) hostage to the conservative interpretation of the rules and principles of a single, solitary religion. Our politics, our policies, our laws and legislation are created to protect the rights and freedoms of the people.

One of those rights is the freedom of religion, in which we choose the faith we will follow. And then, the faith of our citizens can inform and influence the way we interact with and treat one another. Contrary to the ignorance of many Christians, other faiths and religious groups are not anti-morals and anti-values. While a man named “Jesus” may not be in their Holy texts, many religions teach the same values, ethics, and virtues of peace, love, compassion, service, and justice for the suffering that Jesus taught.

[10 min. read, stick with it… it’s worth it.]

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Just start with something...

And I felt a whisper somewhere deep inside my soul, “Just start with something…”

Here I am. It’s an extremely humbling and vulnerable place to be. I feel exposed, because I know how raw and honest and risky it is to be truthful, especially in today’s context. And I’m not trying to fill anyone’s shoes or become famous or form some strange cult (and land a Netflix series).

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Watching Your Faith Go Up in Smoke

I watched in horror with those all over the world as Notre Dame Cathedral burned and smoke billowed into the air. One of the oldest and most famous cathedrals in the world, it was erected over 800 years ago but took only a few hours for the great spire to topple like a child’s block tower.

As the fire burned, unscathed by the water cannons flooding the structure, virtual onlookers began to speculate if the building would be totally consumed or if enough could be saved and rebuilt. I felt a visceral reaction coursing through my body as I stared into the screen watching the church burn. It was a physical manifestation of what I’ve felt for the last decade. Sounds horribly dramatic, doesn’t it?

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Mr. Miyagi and Jesus

Jesus was a true artist. He used his words as a brush to create vivid, awe-inspiring and captivating images those around him could understand, drawing from the everyday life around them to transform a mundane lesson into a masterpiece. We know Jesus’ imagery well- the potter and the clay, the seed and the sower, the fish and the fisher-of-people, the vine and the branches. He used sheep, lambs, worms, snakes and hens to stones, bread, grapes, salt, wheat and wine. On and on the list goes, the original Bob Ross with a happy little cloud here and a happy little tree there.

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Empty Hands and Content Souls

I was 13. While my friends were ecstatic about all the new clothes and other stuff they would be getting for Christmas, I was facing the very real fact that we would not be exchanging any gifts in my family that season. My dad had just gone through a year of chemotherapy and several months of radiation; strained finances because of his illness and the loss of his job meant we did not have money to spend on gifts. Christmas would be different that year.

Christians are constantly reminded that Christmas isn’t all about gifts. And I agree; it’s not all about gifts — but

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Facebook and Virtual Virtues

Let’s face it: Facebook is quickly becoming a “community” of its own. For some, Facebook has replaced much (actual) face-to-face communication and has become a major means of relationship building. Whether we agree or not about the role social media plays in our lives, we cannot ignore that these virtual communities exist (and not only do they exist, but are growing rapidly).

With this new form of communication and community, there is yet another medium upon which some individuals paint pictures of violence and hate, racism and xenophobia, misogyny and total intolerance. It is not surprising, people think very little, but write a whole lot when they are hiding behind the screens of their computers. After all, it takes much more character, time, and patience to sit and dialogue with people you do not agree with.

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The Womb of Baptism

Stepping into baptismal waters to baptize my first candidate as a minister, I relived many of the emotions I felt over 18 years ago on the day that I was baptized. While my baptism was a very special and significant event in my life, this new experience has forever changed me.

With each step into the warm waters of the baptismal pool, I grew increasingly aware of my surroundings. I felt the water pull at my robe and weigh heavily upon my limbs and skin. Hearing my cue, I grabbed the hand of the teenage girl I was to baptize and led her out into the water. Wading hand-in-hand with this beautiful, wide-eyed, fully alive, curious-in-the-faith young woman, I also became increasingly aware of the child — the precious little life — I was carrying inside me.

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The God We Share

On March 1, Rob Nash, global missions coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and Alvin Sugarman, rabbi emeritus at The Temple, Atlanta’s oldest synagogue, were featured speakers at a Baptist-Jewish dialogue to benefit the Community Food Bank in Atlanta.

While I expected to learn a few things, broaden my theological horizons and hear a few familiar tunes, I did not expect the deep spiritual churning my soul would undergo.

Nash spoke with honesty and authenticity while describing our Baptist history, beliefs and faith. His transparency was refreshing, but it was Rabbi Sugarman’s deep, soul-gripping compassion that set my heart free.

I was so profoundly moved by my Jewish brother and guest lecturer at McAfee School of Theology that I found a pen and notepad on my table and — as my table guests curiously looked on — began to frantically scribble words, phrases and ideas that flowed simultaneously from Sugarman’s lips and my own heart.

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Wild Chickens and a Mother's Love

One sunny afternoon, my oldest brother Troy had been chasing Fitzgerald’s famous wild chickens and so proudly bounded up to our home to show my mom and me these handfuls of bitties he was able to scoop up. He had at least four tiny chicks in each hand and a big smile across his face. And as he approached our house with these handfuls of birds, he had not even made it out of the alley when we witnessed the wild Burmese mother hen dive onto his head. And while my mother should probably have been a little more concerned for Troy, she and I looked at this sight in amazement and just laughed. It was the absolute funniest sight to be seen. And that was the day my brother understood what mother hens are willing to do to protect their babies. My story might seem wild or just wildly inappropriate to tell as part of a sermon, but it’s the first image that came to mind after reading the scripture text for today.  

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Why 20- and 30-year-olds are leaving the Baptist church

Many 20- and 30-year-olds share a distaste toward Baptist churches. As a young minister, I believe my peers need the community and nurturing of a church. I hope the church will hear the cries of these young Christ-followers and see the value, the vision and the deep compassion they possess.  

Young adults decide not to attend church for a number of reasons, but there is a particular trend among 20- and 30-year-olds that pertains to local Baptist churches.

The split of the Southern Baptist Convention caused many young Christ-followers to be very disillusioned with the church at an early age, but that isn’t solely to blame. There are more compelling reasons keeping 20- and 30-year-olds at an arm’s distance from the church.

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You Are What You Eat

Then I saw it– I should have known, we’ve been reading through John 6 for weeks. It was still a shock to read…  “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life.” You know I’ve been thinking– I think they did this to me on purpose. This must be some pastoral rite of passage. How was I going to preach this stuff? You gotta admit, if you weren’t all read up on this being a Christian thing, it sounds pretty gross… eating flesh and drinking blood.  

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